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US Government Continues to Neglect Returning War VeteransRalph E. Stone Salem-News.com
We send our soldiers off to fight, then neglect them as veterans.
(SAN FRANCISCO) - On Monday, the nation observed Memorial Day, an annual federal holiday observed in the United States on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. I am a Vietnam veteran who luckily survived my tour with both mind and body intact. But on this day of remembrance for the dead, shouldn’t we also remember the veterans living among us in poverty, homelessness, and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that has led to an upswing in suicide rates? (www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_
We send our soldiers off to fight in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Yet, once the troops become veterans, too often they are woefully neglected.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (www.huduser.org/portal/
Female veterans are at greater risk of homelessness than male veterans and are two to three times more likely to be homeless. Rates of homelessness are higher for Hispanic, African American, and Native American veterans than for non-minority veterans, especially among those who are poor. Veterans between the ages of 18 and 30 are twice as likely as adults in the general population to be homeless, and the risk of homelessness increases significantly among young veterans who are poor.
In addition, the National Alliance to End Homelessness (www.endhomelessness.org/
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/news.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been severely criticized for the diagnoses of wounded veterans with a personality disorder, instead of PTSD, thus denying them disability pay and medical benefits. More than 22,500 soldiers have been suspiciously dismissed with personality disorders, rather than PTSD. By doing so, the military saves money in disability pay and medical care over the lifetimes of veterans. How many homeless veterans, discharged for personality disorders rather than PTSD, would be off the homeless roles if they had disability pay and VA medical care?
In response, in 2010 the VA has issued new regulations liberalizing the evidentiary standard for veterans claiming service-connected PTSD (www.va.gov/ptsd_qa.pdf).
The new liberalized regulations may allow the VA finally to reach its stated goal “to provide excellence in patient care, veterans’ benefits and customer satisfaction.”
As a matter of political reality, this administration, Congress, or the courts, have not established a right to housing, not even for a specific subgroup such as veterans. Even if there was such a right, the underlying root of homelessness needs to be addressed, that is, the de-funding of federal affordable housing programs since the early 1980s. The federal government’s housing assistance for veterans has largely been limited to guaranteeing home mortgage loans but, realistically, homeownership is still too expensive for many veterans, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Despite cries of “support our troops,” it is shameful that the U.S. can spend $1.3 trillion and counting in our Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but neglect our veterans at home.
(If you want to understand the reason for this country’s housing mess, I highly recommend the 2010 Update of “Without Housing – Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness and Policy Failures” by the Western Regional Advocacy Project. It can be downloaded at its website (www.wraphome.org). The 2010 Update focuses public attention back on the #1 reason for our housing mess: the Federal Government’s divestment in affordable housing programs and deregulation of the housing market. It comes at a critical juncture for housing policy in this country as millions of Americans are homeless and tens of millions more are on the brink of economic collapse. Most importantly, it helps people understand the complex issues fueling the crisis and provides a framework for turning the situation around).
Salem-News.com writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer's talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many Salem-News.com writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address firstname.lastname@example.org
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